Audio Mixers: Dave "Rave" Ogilvie; Josh Ramsay.
Theatrical Canadian rockers Marianas Trench continue to go big on Astoria, their third concept album and fourth LP overall. Since going platinum with 2011's Ever After, the Vancouver-based quartet have kept a high profile on both sides of the border, with bandleader Josh Ramsey drawing additional attention as the producer of Carly Rae Jepsen's 2012 international smash hit "Call Me Maybe." With the stakes raised and anticipation high, the band have poured everything they've got into an ambitious, '80s-fueled romp of high adventure with a dazzling array of musical and pop culture references. The Astoria of the album's title is the seaside Oregon town where Richard Donner's beloved 1985 movie The Goonies took place and Marianas Trench play to the film's mix of whimsy and wonder with cinematic orchestral themes, plot allusions, artwork featuring treasure maps, and the bandmembers dressed in Goonies character garb. Musically, they still fall somewhere between the anthemic pop-punk of Fall Out Boy and the slick, funky pop of Maroon 5, but their occasional Queen-like vocal aspirations and determination to quote about a dozen different '80s hits within the album's context make Astoria a pretty entertaining ride. Beginning with the complex, overture-like title track, they pepper their songs with nods to Dire Straits' "Money for Nothing" ("Astoria"), Kenny Loggins' "Footloose," ("Yesterday"), Bananarama's "Cruel Summer" ("This Means War"), and the Police's "King of Pain" ("Wildfire"), among other chestnuts. Fortunately, these references generally come off as lighthearted tributes rather than stolen goods and help to buoy the album when the band's pretensions get the better of them. With high concept fare like this, they are anything but subtle, but Marianas Trench have proved that they are an ambitious lot with a good pop sense and when they're on, they can be a lot of fun. ~ Timothy Monger